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3.11 and Public Opinion of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces: Trending Toward Normalization

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Technical Report

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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When the largest earthquake ever recorded in Japans modern history struck on the afternoon of March 11, 2011 3.11, the resulting tsunami and nuclear disaster contributed to the crisis quickly spinning out of control. While the central governments reaction was lambasted by the media and the public, the positive reception of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces SDF response efforts represented a possible shift in the place and perception of the organization. This research seeks to find what lasting effect, if any, 3.11 had on public opinion toward the SDF. It also investigates whether any such potential shift has an observable impact on Japans recent moves toward apparent normalization. It analyzes the events and trends during and following 3.11 as well as those surrounding comparable disasters in Japans past. Several modern case studies from disasters in Chile, Indonesia, and China are also analyzed to see if 3.11 can serve as a useful marker for determining shifts in civil-military relations in Japan and perhaps beyond. Findings reveal that 3.11 caused enduring positive trends in the SDFs popularity even several years after the crisis as well as a recruitment surge in the years following. While overall changes in hard numbers and statistics were ultimately noteworthy yet modest, 3.11 and several of the case studies most importantly revealed an underlying and perhaps unmeasurable tectonic improvement in the relationship between the public and the SDF.

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  • Government and Political Science

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